The “Brexit” Debate: Britain vs. the European Dream

David Cameron recently secured a deal to give the U.K. a special status within the EU. Will this be enough to keep the U.K. in the EU? What does the future hold?

In 2013 European Commission President José Manuel Barroso urged the British people to embrace Winston Churchill’s post–World War II vision of a “United States of Europe.”

Using a quote from the much-revered prime minister—“We must aim at nothing less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when the Union will be achieved”—Mr. Barroso championed his dream of the European Union (EU) becoming an ever-closer federal union.

Though Mr. Churchill did call for a United States of Europe, it is not clear that he actually envisioned Great Britain as a participant. He is also quoted as saying: “If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.” Mr. Churchill’s seemingly contradictory notions are hardly an endorsement of either side of the debate about Britain remaining in or opting out of the ever-closer union so many European leaders long for.

On June 23 the British people will vote in a historic referendum on British membership in the EU. The choices are essentially “in” or “out.” The “out” option is now nicknamed “Brexit.”

Wavering opinions

Conflicting opinions on Europe have been a feature of politics in Britain. The major parties and the public as a whole have a long history of wavering on the issue of a closer relationship with the EU. Most agree that trade with the EU is good for Britain, but that being a part of a closer political union with Europe is not.

At this early stage, the public is pretty evenly split. Some recent polls show that about 53 percent of Britons prefer to stay in the EU compared to 47 percent who support “Brexit.” Still other polls show a higher percentage supporting an “out” vote.

One poll showed how ardent the two sides are: “The poll also asked how passionate people were about the referendum. Of those who said they were very passionate—and therefore most likely to vote—the contest was neck-and-neck. Remain is on 48 percent only one point ahead of Leave on 47” (Daily Mail).

Some of the highly charged issues being aired by both sides include control of immigrants entering Britain from Europe, the potential of Islamic terrorists entering and threatening Britain through Europe, and the removal of laws imposed by Brussels that supersede laws passed by the U.K. parliament. The issue of U.K. sovereignty is critical to many who see the constitutional monarchy being sidelined by laws emanating from Brussels.

The debate is also becoming a battleground for leadership of the Conservative party. London mayor Boris Johnson recently endorsed “Brexit,” a move many interpret as a play to succeed David Cameron as the next Conservative U.K. prime minister.

Whether Britain votes to stay or leave, the nation is in a very different position compared to the other 27 EU member states.The ever-closer union

On Feb. 19 Mr. Cameron completed negotiations for a new deal between Britain and the EU. Mr. Cameron secured that deal with the hopes of using it to successfully campaign for an “in” vote on June 23. He is now enthusiastically selling the deal to the public—touting the aspects that he believes will appeal to the British people:

  • The right for the U.K. to limit government benefits to migrants for several years.
  • Protections for London firms to be able to remain in London and not be punished for being outside the eurozone.
  • Exemptions for Britain from further EU efforts toward an ever-closer union.

He has an uphill struggle. In general, his efforts to win special considerations for Britain were belittled by much of the British press.

Whether Britain votes to stay or leave, the nation is in a very different position compared to the other 27 EU member states. David Cameron’s new deal for Britain explicitly states: “The requirement to seek ever-closer union does not apply to the United Kingdom.”

The Economist recently reported that an EU diplomat said, “It has become impossible to work together at 28 [member states] … perhaps we have to think about smaller groups” (Feb. 27, 2016, p. 46). The implication is that a smaller group of European nations could form a “core Europe” that, with Britain out of the picture, would be dominated by Germany.

This should be no surprise to readers of Life, Hope & Truth. As we have reported, Britain will not be a part of the European superstate prophesied in the Bible. The British and American peoples will experience an end-time national correction the Bible calls “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), while a united Europe will ascend to political, economic and religious supremacy over much of the world (Revelation 17:12).

For more information, read “The European Dream: ‘Bound by Fate’?” and “The European Dream: ‘We Must Go Deeper.’”

Reviving the roots

In addition to political leaders, Catholic leaders have been urging a European political union based on Europe’s Christian roots for decades.

In 1975 Pope Paul VI, addressing the bishops of Europe, said: “Can it not be said that it is faith, the Christian faith, the Catholic faith, that made Europe? … And it is there that our mission as bishops in Europe takes on a gripping perspective. No other human force in Europe can render the service that is confided to us, promoters of the faith, to reawaken Europe’s Christian soul where its unity is rooted.”

He went on to say that the Catholic faith was “the secret of Europe’s identity,” and when the secret was discovered, Europe could carry out “the providential service to which God is still calling it.”

Pope John Paul II said: “I, Bishop of Rome and pastor of the universal Church … send to you, age-old Europe, a cry full of love: Return to yourself. Be yourself. Discover your origins. Revive your roots. Revive those authentic values that made your history glorious and your presence beneficial among the other continents.” (This quote was later used by Pope Benedict XVI to urge Europe to return to its “Christian roots”).

Pope Benedict XVI said his predecessor “launched the project of a Europe conscious of its own spiritual unity, based on the foundation of Christian values. … He expressed the desire of a Europe without borders, which does not disavow the Christian roots from which it sprang and does not renounce the authentic humanism of Christ’s Gospel! How timely this appeal still is, in the light of the recent events of the European continent!”

Pope Francis echoed the same message to Europe in a 2015 interview with a Portuguese radio station: “Europe has to fulfil its role, that is, to recover its identity. True, Europe made a mistake … when it chose to speak of its identity without wanting to recognize the deepest level of its identity, its Christians roots. That was a mistake. But, well, we all make mistakes in life. … It’s time to recover its faith.”

Pope Francis was the 2016 recipient of the Charlemagne Prize—an award given to individuals who do “outstanding work toward European unity.”

Europe’s future role

The Bible prophesies that the push for a united Europe will soon give rise to a 10-nation European superstate. With the precedent set by Great Britain, other European nations may eventually opt out or refuse to surrender sovereignty to an ever-closer union. At some point, the present 28 nations of the EU will be narrowed down to a core group of 10 nations, or groupings of nations, politically led by Germany and religiously led by Rome.

For the last three centuries, the world has been primarily dominated by the English-speaking peoples. That era is ending and will be replaced by a new geopolitical landscape dominated by Europe.

Photo by European Union 2016 - European Parliament/by-nc-nd/4.0/

About the Author

Peter Hawkins and Eddie Johnson

Peter Hawkins and Eddie Johnson are elders serving congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the British Isles.